A visit to most veterinary clinics and pet stores will reveal a bewildering array of toxic chemicals designed to help you manage fleas and other pests on your pet.  These chemical killers are supposedly safe for your pet and your family, however all pesticides pose some degree of risk to humans, animals, and the environment. All of the active ingredients in flea spot-on preparations have been linked to serious health effects in laboratory animals. What’s more, many of the inert ingredients are just as toxic, if not more so, than the active chemical component.

Natural Flea Control Cat Dog

Some parasites, like fleas, can be extremely irritating for some pets, and in certain situations such as highly flea allergic animals, pharmaceutical agents may be necessary to keep itching under control until the problems with their immune system have been addressed. Generally, however, we tend to rely too much on chemical agents when it comes to parasite control. In many cases, utilising natural control measures can prove to be satisfactory, and much safer for your family and your pet.

When attempting to rid your home and pet of fleas, it is important to understand that:
• An adult female flea can lay up to 5000 eggs laid in her lifetime.
• Flea eggs are laid on your pet, and then drop off into their environment, so most eggs, larvae and pupae are found in your pet’s bedding or favourite resting spots.
• Flea eggs and larvae like dark, cool areas, so carpets, under furnishings, cracks between floorboards, underneath the house, and the garage or garden shed are prime real estate.
• In ideal weather conditions, the flea’s whole life-cycle (female flea – egg – larva – pupa – adult flea) can occur in as little as three weeks.
• Approximately 95-99% of the flea population in your home resides OFF your pet. Treating flea ‘hot-spots’ with a safe, effective environmental control product makes more sense than simply relying on a chemical product applied to your pet.

The following natural approach will ensure your home and pets remain flea-free, without overloading either with toxic chemicals.

• Steam-clean your carpets and rugs at the beginning of the flea season (late winter or early spring).
• Vacuum regularly – at least weekly, daily if possible. Your vacuum is one of your best weapons, effective at sucking up and killing flea eggs, larvae, pupae and adults without any additional measures.
• Minimise soft furnishings and limit your pet’s access to carpets, rugs, the couch and other textiles.
• Place rugs, doormats and pet bedding in the sun every few days. The sun dries out flea eggs and larvae.
• Wash pet’s bedding weekly in hot water (at least 60C) then hang in the hot sun to dry.
• You can sprinkle a little food-grade diatomaceous earth (we sell this at The Natural Vets) onto your pet’s bedding and work it in to guard your pet from fleas while they sleep.
• Consider using a crate or bed that is easier to keep flea-free, such as a Houndhouse kennel or the Snooza flea-free raised bed.
• Keep outdoor areas swept clean and free of debris.
• Keep grass cut short, as flea eggs and larvae don’t like heat or sun.
• Block off pet access to any areas underneath your house or deck, the garage or the shed, as the damp, cool climate is prime flea real estate. (Ensure your pet still has somewhere cool and shady to rest in hot weather though!)
• Sprinkle food-grade diatomaceous earth around any shady areas of the garden or spots where your pet likes to lie.

When it comes to treating fleas on your pet, there are a number of measures you can take that don’t leave you relying on the constant use of toxic chemicals.  It is especially important to avoid using toxic flea control chemicals on puppies and kittens. We also recommend avoiding toxic flea chemicals if your pet is geriatric or chronically ill.  Instead of relying on chemicals year-round, try the following:
• Utilise a flea comb. A daily brush followed by a targeting flea combing does wonders for every pet, massaging the skin, promoting blood and lymph flow and detoxification, and can help monitor flea infestations.  Flea comb your pets daily, removing and killing any fleas.
• Bath fortnightly, or weekly if dealing with a moderate or severe flea burden. Some cats will tolerate baths quite well. Use a gentle shampoo that will not strip oil from the coat, particularly if bathing more than fortnightly. For dogs, we recommend you try the Ivory Coat shampoo range, available at The Natural Vets.
• You can boost the flea-repellent properties of a shampoo by adding essential oils, after discussing with our Holistic Vet which oils are most appropriate. Work the lather well into the skin and leave it on for at least 5 minutes. (This is a good time to give your dog a bone to chew on.) Comb out or drown any critters making their way to high ground.
• Follow shampooing with a simple homemade flea rinse made by slicing a whole lemon, and steeping in two cups of boiling water overnight. Strain before using, and either pour over your animal, or spray it on, or dip them in it if they are small. Leave the lemon rinse on the skin – do not wash out. Lemons contain limonene, which is a natural citrus component that kills and deters fleas. Lemon rinses are safe to use on cats.
• You can also use apple cider vinegar as a skin rinse after washing your pet, just add two tablespoons of the vinegar to a litre of water and rinse your pet with it after washing. Don’t rinse it off, just towel your pet dry. Vinegar rinses are also safe to use on cats. Fleas do not like the smell or taste of apple cider vinegar so it can work effectively as a flea deterrent.
• You can rub a combination of flea-repellent essential oils into your dog’s collar once a week, or massage a small amount through their coat daily. You can also use the oil concentrate made into a spray with water to mist your dog and their bedding. Before going to dog training, dog beaches, or dog parks, mist your dog with an essential oil-based insect repellent. These repellents are often great mosquito and fly deterrents also, so can be used on dogs who are prone to fly-bite around the ears, and on humans who are susceptible to mosquito bites. DO NOT USE ESSENTIAL OILS ON CATS, without first seeking advice from a Veterinarian experienced in the use of essential oils on felines, like Dr Renee, our doTERRA Wellness Advocate.  We sell an insect repellant oil blend at the clinic.

DoTerra Logo Health

When it comes to chemical pest control on your pet, there are some products that we consider to be safer than others.  In some extreme cases of flea bite hypersensitivity these products may be needed in the short-term to give your animal some relief.  Reliance on chemical products long-term, however, will weaken an animal’s immune system and lead to more serious problems.

At The Natural Vets our Nurses are all well-versed in our range of safe and effective flea control products, and can help you to choose a product that will work for your pet.  Come and visit us soon, and make the change to safe, non-toxic products for you and your pet today!